It’s that time of year—time to totally overrate and underrate players based on performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. The NFL will gather in Indianapolis beginning next weekend for meetings and then the medical and physical and mental testing of more than 300 prospects prior to what projects to be a good draft, especially rich at wide receiver. The difference this year: When the on-field workouts begin Thursday, Feb. 27, there will be three straight days of prime-time workouts—instead of on-field workouts and sprints being done in daytime hours.
So, for instance, if you want to watch the quarterbacks, they’ll be in the first evening of workouts (with wideouts and tight ends), on the 27th. This is an altogether rough estimate, but the quarterbacks are always divided into two groups, alphabetically. The first group of QBs will run at about 6:30 p.m. ET, and begin throwing to the first group of wideouts shortly after 7. The second QB group will begin running at 8:30 or 8:45 p.m., with the throwing beginning shortly after 9 p.m.
The event used to start at 9 a.m. daily, but now, in an effort to jack up the ratings, it’s a prime-time show.
“Point-blank, it’s about the eyeballs,” said Charlie Yook, the NFL Network VP of Production. He oversees all combine coverage. “We should get a larger consumption of the combine in all platforms. This is no different than moving the first round of the draft to Thursday primetime, and moving a weekly game to Thursday night during the season. Thursday night is a football night.”
NFL Network will likely have some current players working on the shows with their college position groups being tested. When the defensive backs perform Sunday, Jets safety Jamal Adams will be giving analysis. Same with Saints defensive end Cam Jordan on the show Saturday, when defensive linemen and linebackers work out. (Friday is kicker/punter/offensive line/running back night.)
The shows could be a little different from past shows, Yook said, because NFL Network will have to introduce these college stars to some viewers in prime time who, for instance, might not know Joe Burrow the quarterback or Burrow’s Heisman speech very well. “It’s a big change,” Yook said of the move to evenings. “We have a big responsibility to explain the drills and why they’re meaningful, and why they should care about these players they don’t really know yet. We know our core viewer is very smart, but we understand there will be new viewers as well. We’re confident this group will have a ton of star power.”
The whole scene in Indianapolis will be odd this year, with the evening workouts and daytime team interviews with players the opposite of the traditional schedule. Downtown restaurants used to be packed with scouts, coaches and GMs before 7 p.m. player interviews began, and then bars would be hopping by 10 or so, with gossip and drinks flowing till 1 or so. No idea how the new schedule will affect social lives, but Indy bars will have a very different, and probably less lucrative, combine week.
Meet me at the combine
For the past few years, I’ve met football fans at the combine for a beer and football talk at Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis. The streak continues this year, but on a different day: Wednesday. (We’ve usually done it on a Friday, but with the changes at the combine, I had to make it Wednesday this year.) I’ll be at Sun King to talk football with some of my buddies in the media, and to answer your questions. We might even have a beer together. It’s Feb. 26 at 6:30. I’d love to see you.
The cause is great: All proceeds go to Teachers’ Treasures, a nonprofit that fundraises for school supplies so that teachers in needy classrooms can “shop” for school supplies for free. The group helps 5,910 teachers from 254 schools in central Indiana, and your $25 will go directly to help.
I’d really like to see you there. For questions on the event, there’s an email contact on the Eventbrite page.
What you need to know about NFL’s changes to Scouting Combine originally appeared on NBCSports.com